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Conversations with Calliope- What Nature Teaches Us About Waste

By Joseph Langen


Sliding Otter News
January 16, 2010
Volume 2, Issue 2

What Nature Teaches Us About Waste

Garbage is simply useful stuff in the wrong place~ Alex Steffen.

David Hertz reminds us that “as Americans we consume approximately thirty-five percent of the world’s resources and create over fifty percent of its solid waste.” There may be others more wasteful than we are but not many. Maybe it’s time to consider our lifestyle and its impact on the rest of the world.

Happily, our collective conscience shows signs of stirring lately. Recycling efforts are commonplace. Government agencies monitor the quality of our water supply. Alternative energy, more respectful of our environment than reliance on fossil fuels, is starting to attract some serious attention.

Yet we remain one of the most wasteful countries in the world. The number of people poo-pooing concern about our environment seems to rival the number of those serious about making changes. Yet we barrel along creating more and more trash in our wake.

What’s important in our culture? Most of us make some effort toward conservation and recycling. But being responsible isn’t easy. Our national anthem and political speeches subscribe to lofty ideals. But what about our daily lives? More telling than what we espouse as our priorities are how we act, how we spend our time and what we eat, wear and drive. It’s easy to say what sounds good and then do what we like regardless of the consequences.

Our rubbish says that speed and convenience appeal to the fast pace of our lives. The remnants of packaging remain as one byproduct of our lifestyle. Similar waste clogs our transportation, entertainment, communication and commerce. It seems clear to me that our technology is often designed to become obsolete in order to insure more sales.

If we did want to change these destructive wasteful habits, where would we turn for example? It occurred to me that we might consider nature. Most of the time we take for granted the cycles of nature and hardly notice them.

At first glance nature seems extravagant. A single maple tree drops many thousands more seed pods than are required to insure a sufficient crop of maple trees. Looking closer, we see that the excess feeds wildlife.

So what’s the difference between nature and human society? Nature provides an abundance sometimes favoring one group of beings and sometimes another. Our human society often does not accept the flow of nature but tries to bend it to our own desires. In the process we often destroy or diminish our own natural environment in our quest for immediate rewards.

There are no easy answers and it’s hard not to put ourselves first. Maybe part of the answer is to consider ourselves as part of nature rather than its owners.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Take some time to learn how nature respects the overall community of life rather than playing favorites.

  • Rethink the importance of your immediate needs and wants.

  • Consider your place in nature.

  • Consider how you might be more in tune with nature.

  • Balance your needs with those of the world community and of nature.


Conversations with Calliope- Back to Writing

By Joseph Langen

(Writing Space)

Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.~ E. L. Doctorow

JOE: Good morning Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good morning Joe. I trust you survived your first days at GO ART.
JOE: I did and enjoyed working with other people after all my time writing alone.
CALLIOPE: What about today?
JOE: Today I'm back to my writing.
CALLIOPE: What's on your agenda?
JOE: First our conversation which is progressing nicely.
CALLIOPE: And then?
JOE: I have my novel, Marital Property, to finish and a newsletter to write by next Saturday.
CALLIOPE: Where will you start?
JOE: Since I have only a vague idea what to write about next week, I will let the newsletter idea percolate for a while and work on the novel.
CALLIOPE: What is your idea for the newsletter?
JOE: My girlfriend Carol suggested that I write about waste in our society, a particular annoyance of hers.
CALLIOPE: I see. How about the novel?
JOE: I'm wading through the final edit and have one reader reader ready to go. I will need to find a couple others too. Talk with you tomorrow.


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